Concerned about official recycling efforts

| 20/04/2018

With all the recent uncertainty surrounding the management at DEH, how can we be sure that what we place in the recycling bins around the island is actually being recycled?

recycling, Ask AuntieAuntie’s answer: I have not yet received a reply to your question from the Department of Environmental Health, but just this morning they sent out a press release ahead of Earth Day this coming Sunday (22 April), which confirmed that the DEH is still recycling.

I do understand your worries, however, as things are a bit in flux at DEH right now, with the director on leave since December last year. It is also easy to be sceptical these days about recycling efforts as garbage collection has been sporadic at best all over the island, but it does appear that recycling is continuing.

In today’s release, the DEH said that type 1 and 2 plastics can be recycled, which are mostly “water and soda bottles and are also identified by the abbreviations PET and HDPE respectively”.

The DEH also stressed that people should “properly clean plastic items and remove from plastic bags before depositing them into recycling containers” — I’m not sure that’s what most people are doing, judging by what ends up in the skips.

I really think it would be worthwhile for the DEH to do more to educate us all about the recycling process. Just the other day Auntie had a, shall we say, heated discussion with a family member about whether an empty plastic container of toxic drain cleaner should be thrown in with the soda and water bottles. In the end it was decided that would be OK after it was rinsed, but I would like the DEH to weigh in more specifically on the types of bottles they will take.

And since the theme for this year’s Earth Day is “End Plastic Pollution”, I should say something about the ubiquitous plastic bags offered all around Cayman, which all too often end up in the sea, with devastating results for marine life. The supermarkets began charging five cents for plastic bags back in 2010 as a way to discourage their use, but there are still plenty of people who are not deterred by paying those extra pennies and just don’t care about any environmental impact.

If I could make a suggestion, the place to educate the public is right in the supermarkets, perhaps at the check-out counter. It would be nice to see the DEH work with the stores on this.

Plastic bags, of course, can be used again and again, rather than be thrown away but it’s a shame that more people don’t shop with reusable bags. Better yet, perhaps Cayman could join the more than 20 countries that have outright banned plastic bags, starting with Bangladesh in 2002.

Plastic bags, along with plastic wrap, films and food storage bags are not, unfortunately, recycled here, so if people are not willing to give those items up, at the very least they should be reusing them.

In the DEH release, Jim Schubert, senior project manager for the proposed new integrated solid waste system, noted, “According to the 2017 tonnage report for George Town landfill, approximately 95,000 tonnes of garbage was accepted at the landfill that year. It is critical that we begin to reduce the waste that is being generated.”

Here is what they suggest:

Reduce Waste

  1. Purchase bulk items instead of individually wrapped items.
  2. Use rechargeable batteries
  3. Repair broken items
  4. Skip the straw
  5. Compost food waste

Reuse Waste

  1. Reuse cleaning cloths instead of single use paper towels
  2. Donate unused items to charity
  3. Take reusable shopping bags to the grocery store
  4. Switch to reusable water bottles
  5. Pack lunches in reusable containers

Cayman has come so far with the mantra of living green entering the public consciousness, but there is still so much more that can be done. This conversation needs to continue year round, to keep this issue front and centre long after the last good deed generated by Earth Day.

For a complete list of recyclable items and depot locations, visit the DEH website.

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Category: Ask Auntie, Environmental Questions

Comments (15)

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  1. Whatcha Say says:

    The education of the recycling habit needs to be emphasized and inculcated in the school students. Unless this education takes place, there will never be the economies of scale need to make it work. Too many of my friends and neighbors “can’t be bothered” with recycling, and care not one bit about the massive debacle of the landfill, as it is “someone else’s problem” and not theirs.

    Some children I know are being actively DISCOURAGED from participating in recycling, and that should be considered criminal child abuse! It is those younger generations that will be negatively impacted by the waste issues going forward.

  2. Anonymous says:

    We need to incinerate our trash in high temp incinerators and use the heat to power steam turbines like some countries do.. oh wait.. CUC would throw a hissy fit and government would bend to their will and our light bills would be increased to make up for lost profit.. so.. never mind

    • Anonymous says:

      I suggest do some research into the present process which is underway to hopefully just that. No hissy fit from CUC either.

  3. satirony says:

    Why not charge a massive 50 cents deposit for every plastic bottle and container? Once you’ve paid the initial deposit on, say,12 water bottles, that would be the end of it. Hand in the used ones, claim the credit, and there’d be no further expenditure. Toss the bottles away, and it would cost you. Furthermore, within three months, there wouldn’t be a plastic bottle left on the roadsides or beaches on our once pristine island.

    Sadly, a minority on this island has a shameful attitude to our shared environment. They suffer from that most repellent of human human vices, which is that they don’t care. It’s sad but true.

    Kenya has completely banned the use of plastic bags. To use one there is illegal. Why not ban them here?

  4. Whatcha Say says:

    I worked at the landfill over the Christmas holidays and the recycling effort is being done there. I saw many compacted bales of both plastic and aluminum cans/containers being managed. Waste oil is being tested and exported for recycling as well. Several of the “teams” of seasonal workers were actively involved with the sorting and bailing process as well as the oil processing. If the effort was engaged in by ALL in these islands, it would become more economically feasible.

    Unfortunately I know of many of my fellow Caymanians who carelessly toss their trash out of the car, even within their own neighborhoods. I observe this every day as I work in my yard and walk in the neighborhood streets for exercise. It saddens me to admit that we have succumbed to the same nasty habits of our neighbors to the north.

    In some cities in the US and Canada your trash is subject to random inspecting for recyclables, and you can be FINED for not taking the process seriously! Perhaps it is time to establish deposits on soft drink cans and bottles here to add an economic incentive to encourage more responsible behaviour?

  5. Anonymous says:

    How about educating local residents about littering their own neighbourhoods? On Saturday Earth clean up day , filled the back of a truck with beer / alloy soda cans, glass bottles , plastic bottles and Wendys/ B.K. wrappers and K.F.C boxes , obviously thrown out of a car window. No civic pride , sadly.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The recycling receptacles are always overflowing. Do they ever empty them? I also have doubts that government has any recycling plan or policy.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, CNS but this is complete BS. CIG has no recycling policy and no recycling facilities. In order to recycle materials they have to be stored, re-sold and shipped off-island – there’s no evidence that is happening. Maybe if you’d have asked the right questions you’d have got the right answers for us.

    • Anonymous says:

      Very little, if any, recycling actually takes place on island. This is why it is almost cost prohibitive. Hence when we get the waste-to-energy plant we will likely find that it is more cost effective to convert these items to energy.

  8. Steve says:

    They should take all types of plastic and use for road building. Problem is government is full of old fashion people who won’t learn to expand recycle program. Trash at dump is about 98% are recyclable.

    • Whatcha Say says:

      Recycled plastics would make TERRIBLE roads, as the plastic degrades with exposure to the sun. On the other hand, GLASS containers ground to small size and incorporated in the pavement can be and has been done on large scale in some cities. It is basically highly refined SAND and makes an excellent aggregate base for road paving, It would save importing aggregates and/or mining the land for necessary paving projects.

      The volume of glass bottles (from wine & spirits alone) tossed away here could contribute substantially to the aggregate used for paving. Every time I go to the recycle containers, the glass bottles are overflowing and stacked (or broken!) beside the receptacle.

  9. Anonymous says:

    There is persistent and widespread skepticism that recycling is not actually taking place and that beyond the feel-good parking lot exercise of sorting, it all goes into the same landfill.

    How hard would it be to dispel the nay-sayers by inviting the press, or publishing a photo of a loaded container, confirming action, every now and then?

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t know whether they are recycling or not but I had the fright of my life a few weeks ago. I went to countryside to dispose of my recycling items and just before tipping my stuff up pops a man inside the bin. Yes he was inside picking up the stuf and tthrowing it into a small truck alongside the bin. I understood that we should not tip stuff in bags to just shake it out in the appropriate bin and reuse the bags but this time I just put the bags into the truck. I Could not bare to see him picking up the garbage like that but dtill don’t know the proper procedure to follow.